What do nylon stockings and atomic bombs have in common? DuPont. The chemical firm of DuPont de Nemours pioneered the development of both nylon and plutonium, playing an important role in the rise of mass consumption and the emergence of the notorious “military-industrial complex.” In this fascinating account of the lives and careers of Du Pont’s chemical engineers, Pap A. Ndiaye deftly illustrates the contribution of industry to the genesis of a dominant post–World War II “American model” connecting prosperity with security.
The consumer and military dimensions of twentieth-century American history are often studied separately. Ndiaye reunites them by examining Du Pont's development of nylon, which symbolized a new way of life, and plutonium, which was synonymous with annihilation. Reflecting on the experiences and contributions of the company's engineers and physicists, Ndiaye traces Du Pont's transformation into one of the corporate models of American success.